Patrick Dennis is best remembered for his 1955 novel Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade. Mame could be cruel but she had a big heart. There was no heart to be found in his 1961 novel Little Me: The Intimate Memoirs of that Great Star of Stage, Screen and Television, Belle Poitrine (as told to Patrick Dennis). Belle is ruthless as she sleeps and murders her way to B-movie stardom.
The musical shifted focus to her 7 hapless suitors. All were played by television star Sid Caesar. The show ran 257 performances and received 10 Tony nominations but revivals shutter fast. There’s not much there to work with. If Fosse had collaborated with Kander and Ebb he’d have explored the dark side of Belle’s ambition. Neil Simon’s book isn’t interested in that, or much of anything, beyond broad sketch comedy. Revivals have expanded Belle’s role but rewrites can’t make her sympathetic. The title song, “Little Me,” reminds us that Belle’s greatest love affair is with herself.